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“It’s a great win,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “If you execute in this league and have talent, you have a chance to win, and we did that. The Lakers are going to be fine. They’ve got a lot of new guys and a new system, but we were opportunistic tonight and got the job done.”

Dallas also contained Howard by using his career-long free-throw ineptitude against him — hardly a novel strategy, but one that worked particularly well when combined with Howard’s opening-night nerves. The Lakers were 12 for 31 altogether from the free-throw line, including Jordan Hill’s 1-for-6 effort — a major factor in their inability to close the gap on Dallas in the second half.

“I’ve just got to stop thinking so much and get up there and make them,” Howard said.

Jae Crowder scored eight points in his NBA debut for the Mavericks, who are likely to be without Nowitzki for at least six more weeks while the German superstar recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. Dallas also played without new center Chris Kaman, yet had little trouble matching up with the Lakers down low.

“It was energy and effort tonight for us,” Marion said. “We were resilient, we kept coming, and we did what we needed to do to get a win.”